Athletes in the freezer: “Bikes, Grass and Circuits”

UAC 400m Squad leader James Griffith talks about how his group adapts to training with the snow...

January, as ever, is proving to be a difficult time for us athletes. It's a crucial month in so many ways, being at the heart of the hard winter training block, the start of the indoor athletics season (Late January to early March) and the beginning of the build-up to the outdoor season in the Summer. However with sub-zero temperatures, ice and snow forcing the track to close, and any sprinting a potential injury risk, we are left with a difficult dilemma; how can we keep improving without actually running?

On your bike

The 400m race, often called the ‘Daddy of the Sprints,' combines sprinting speed with speed endurance. It's ultimately a brutal 50 second battle against lactic acid. Therefore our typical running training involves a combination of shorter (under 100m) and longer (200m – 400m) sprint repetitions, with the intention of teaching our body to produce less, and efficiently clear out, lactic acid from our muscles. With the current freeze, these sessions are too risky to run outdoors, but similar training benefits can be obtained by indoor bike sessions. Our group's favourite is a ‘1 minute on, 2 minutes off' session, where we repeat 1 minute bursts of cycling, 10 times. It tends to end painfully! This type of session is great for runners of all distances, as the cycling can be made shorter and more resistive for sprinters and longer for distance runners.

Grass Running

Although the track and roads are unusable, most of the grass around Cambridge is still fine to run on. We tend to use Parker's Piece, running 20 to 50 second repetitions at a slightly slower pace, but with shorter recovery times to keep the intensity up. Again, these can be a little risky if you're unprepared to face the weather, but by wrapping up warm and not spending too long standing around, they make very good sessions.

Circuits Circuits Circuits

Our coach often reminds us of a year when it was too cold to train outdoors, so the British athletes spent their winter indoors doing circuit training. They won more medals at the European Championships the following summer than ever before! Circuits are great for overall body strengthening, are often underused and definitely underappreciated. We go for one dedicated circuit session each week and add in exercises at the end of other sessions, or even before bed.

Hit the Gym

The final ingredients in our cold weather training cocktail are weight lifting sessions; two or three times a week. It is often said that running fast equals

being strong, and that is especially true for 400m runners where you need strength to keep moving forward when every other bodily instinct is screaming at you to stop! In January our programme shifts to more power work, lifting slightly lighter weights faster. Thankfully this all happens indoors, so the only difficulty we face is the treacherous cycle to the gym.

I hope this gives you a small insight into the athletics world during the depths of winter; it's certainly not glamorous and involves lots of hard work and making the most of every training opportunity. With only a few weeks until we clash with Oxford wdoors and with BUCS and the Varsity Match on the horizon, every week of training is vital. As I keep reminding CUAC's athletes: Snow is not an excuse not to train!

James Griffith

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